The extremely poor air quality caused by smoke from wildfires in the United States is expected to improve on Monday (Sept. 14) and clear by Tuesday as winds are in the forecast for the Kamloops area.
The smoke from massive wildfires in Washington and Oregon rolled into the Kamloops region on Sunday, sending air-quality sensors into health-alert status on the purpleair.com monitors for the first time since the B.C. wildfires of 2018 and 2017.
A reading of 258 was noted in Upper Sahali late Sunday night, with particulate matter of 2.5 microns ore more providing readings between 200 and 300 coming with this health alert warning: “Everyone may experience more serious health effects if they are exposed for 24 hours.”
The purple air sensors — of which there are many throughout Kamloops, most of which had readings of between 100 and 200 on Sunday night — measure air quality between zero (satisfactory) and 500 (extreme conditions).
Environment Canada’s air quality health index ranges from1 (low risk) to 10+ (very high risk), with the reading downtown on Sunday night in the very high risk category. That reading is expected to drop to 6 on Monday and even lower on Tuesday as the smoke is expected to leave the area.
The wildfire smoke has led to at least one event cancellation, with organizers of the weekly Girls Skate Kamloops clinic on McArthur Island deciding not to go ahead with the scheduled Monday gathering.
Interior Health issued a smoke-related bulletin on Sunday, noting the smoke can worsen symptoms for those who have pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma, allergies and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Typical symptoms may include difficulty breathing, chest pain and discomfort, coughing and irritated eyes, nose, and throat.
The health authority added that smoke can also worsen cardiac disease, with inhaled particles triggering the release of chemical messengers into the blood that may increase the risk of blood clots, angina episodes, heart attacks and strokes. People with chronic cardiac conditions are more susceptible to chest pain, heart attacks, cardiac arrhythmias, acute congestive heart failure or stroke.
Those with mild symptoms are urged to take medications as prescribed and use a rescue inhaler if one has been prescribed.
Interior Health is advising that people should stay indoors as much as possible and close windows if they can, while limiting or eliminating outdoor exercise until the air clears. The health authority is also advising schools to ensure students are situated appropriately apart, keep classroom windows closed, encourage students to wear closely fitted masks, which will provide some protection, and restrict outdoor physical education and limit indoor physical education to lower intensity activity,
For additional general information about wildfire smoke and health, click here.